Realism stems from the interaction between empirical cognition and rational interpretation. Observational patterns reinforce or adjust this ideology which results from the rational cognition of objective beings itself, supplemented with logic backed by axioms with the principle of Occam’s razor. Realism tends to downplay the emotional response to the disparity between the objective realm and his own somatic expectation. Because of its disheartening nature (as the disparity often triggers a drastic impulse for human emotion, positive or negative), there is a natural emotional tendency to reject realism among all people to various degrees regardless of the biological diversity within the population. Since cognitive bias is a natural biological trait of all human beings, and the development and acceptance of logic speculation needs a relatively high level of intelligence, realism could only be absorbed by a small fraction of smart people who happen to tune their cognitive bias in favor of emotionally detached empirical observations and philosophical interpretation. I could only speculate that only those with potentials could undergo the transcendence to become a true realist under the enlightenment of intellectual influence and empirical observation.
Though proud of my Chinese heritage, I have to say realism has only been taken serious in the West. Classical Chinese intellectuals had the astute observation of empirical patterns but did not develop mature metaphysics, or speculative philosophy like that of Ancient Greece. Realism in Europe, which survived from the infiltration of Christianity and thrived after the renaissance, ought be regarded as the most eminent determinant beyond the absolute dynamism that leads to the rise of enlightenment, the development of scientific method, and ultimately the modern science and technology advancement.
On the other side, populism is based on fantasy, fairy tales, dreams with mostly good intentions which are usually supported and supplemented by excessive guilt and desire. Populism craves for a deliberate advocate of resonance, unity, and solidarity in spite of realistic intellectual, physical, and gender and even cultural differences for the sake of self-salvation. Its origin dates back to the dawn of human civilization, and it has dominated the human civilization ever since. As far as I concern, only the ancient Chinese and ancient Greeks were able to come up with an alternative (the former comes to an only halfway package). Still, even up to this day, the composition of human ethics remain a big puzzle among all realist speculators. Kant was trying hard. A friend of mine said Schopenhauer reached the furthest. I concurred and didn’t want to discuss further. As far as I understand the core of populism, either ethnocentrism or benevolent ethics, should not be regarded more than an interaction between the somatic stimuli to empirical observations and philosophical speculations that follow. Unlike realism, populism usually serves for deliberate and clear objectives. Some are more somatic and less speculative than others. Religion is a good example of populism with much more efforts in philosophical speculation, whereas nationalism or racism may spend less time in contemplation. This is the same case with modern liberalism, a more or less interchangeable term for leftism. This dominant ideology of the contemporary era is no different than any other forms of populism (religion, fascism, communism etc.). Its ostensible wishful thinking axioms, good-and-evil indoctrination, and an absolute intolerance of other ideologies, are the common traits for all populist thoughts. Probably because of its sharply tangible and overwhelmingly clear ideologies, their impacts on people’s behavior are way more profound than that of realism. One should never overlook the power of populism. It may not propel the advancement of factual well-being of mankind, but it definitely has the ability to turn white to black, water to wine, man to woman, or vice versa. The ultimate “Right or Wrong” question thus becomes the sole decree on which the final judgement is based.
Take an example on the different response to a pure empirical observation:
“Blacks are in low socio-economical status than whites”.
A liberal would reply immediately with anger: “That’s not right, it’s purely racism and discrimination.”
A white supremacist would reply immediately with contempt : “What do you think about those inferior dumb breed?”
A realist would not hastily come to a judgement but rather raise questions to be dug into later: “why is it happening and what are the reasons? And how should we react?”
Let alone the realist response, this example shows how hollow it is to define a “Right or Wrong”. The second response would be deemed as a hate speech for immediate political persecution in 2012’s Birmingham and the first response would be regarded as an absolute delirium to be reviled against in 1712’s London. The dominant populist ideology changes, sometimes changes to a completely opposite sense. All populist ideology only serve to a certain condition with an expiration date. But the trick is there’s always another one to fulfill the role left by the previous one. In the first half of 20th century Germans were the most avid nationalistic followers in the world; half a century later it became the one of the most leftist countries in Europe, if not the most.
Unlike populism, the ultimate goal doesn’t lay underneath a moralistic judgement or salvation on the issue of “Right or Wrong”. Instead, the eternal pursuit of a sounder interpretation of the empirical beings in philosophy or the incentive to contribute to a more practical and utilitarian application to our factual well beings in science serves as the core drives. Such ouroboros ideology could never satiate the pursuers, thus enabling a perpetual motion in the name of truth and applicability that propelled us into the modern civilization.
Unfortunately realism could never be popular, but populism could never solve any practical issues. As a realist, I wholeheartedly long for a second booming of realism for another technological and scientific leap. But also as a realist, I do not really see this happening any soon.